By Joe Strange
Well we couldn’t have gotten two more radically different mid-season premiers if we’d tried. While The Flash’s return was full of the usual mix of action, drama and a lot of laughter, Arrow had a very different premier with last night’s Left Behind. From here on out there will be spoilers for Arrow season 3, so go forth with caution folks.
So our last trip to Starling City (is it Star City yet? Get on that Palmer) saw Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen confronting Ra’s Al Ghul, the head of the demon, leader of the League of Assassins and father to the woman whom the dead Sarah Lance loved. After the revelation that it was in fact a brain washed Thea Queen (Willa Hollard), who has been having major training sessions with her father Malcolm Merlin (John Barrowman), who killed Sarah and the announcement from the League that Starling City would pay in blood until Sarah’s killer stepped forward, Oliver saw no choice but to take the blame for his sister’s crime and challenge Ra’s Al Ghul to a duel to the death. Which he then lost by making the fatal error of getting stabbed through the chest, and then was dropped off into a ravine. Dude was dead, is what I’m saying.
So, Left Behind picks up three days later and sees Team Arrow, minus the actual Arrow, still trying to bring the city to rights, though not doing quite as well as they should be. Taking the disappearance of their team leader the hardest is Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards); on one hand, Diggle (David Ramsey) and Roy (Colton Haynes) are coming to terms with the idea that the reason Ollie hasn’t communicated with them yet is because he lost the fight to the death and not, you know, bad cell phone signal, on the other, Felicity is in deep with denial She even goes as far as cutting missions short so that Diggle and Roy can’t get hurt, and so that she won’t loose more of, what is effectively, her family.
Not helping with the whole ‘fear of losing people she cares about’ is Ray Palmer’s (Brandon Routh) A.T.O.M project, which involves suits of armour, electrical beams and microchips that don’t seem to be working properly. Palmer enlists Smoak to help him, but with her pretty big recent loss she’s not particularly keen and lashes out, saying the sorts of things we’ve not heard Felicity say before. Tensions are pretty high, especially after Merlin retrieves the sword used to kill Ollie from the battle site to prove to the gang that he’s dead. Felicity gets another chance to lash out and puts all of the blame on Merlin, who takes it like a champ announcing that now that Ollie is dead, so is he as there’s nothing left to stop the League of Assassins from killing him and Thea.
This really was a fantastic episode for Felicity, we get to see such raw emotion that’s so rare in her character and Rickards really brings her to life. It’s a heavy episode for everyone, Roy even turns to drinking alone. The entire cast does a great job in mourning Ollie in each of their different ways, and if you look closely you’ll see the 5 stages of grief in all of the main cast.
But there’s only so much time for mourning as there’s a new big bad in town, Brick, who’s played exactly how you’d expect by Vinnie Jones (Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, every other English gangster movie), who’s somewhat of a scene stealer. He’s intimidating, aggressive and Cockney, and he seems to be immune to bullets. Brick is assembling a gang of muscle to take over the Glades, so I guess we’ve found this seasons’ antagonist, and one that could be a lot of fun. Alongside that we also get to see Laurel Lance taking things into her own hands, most notably her sister’s old get up. But I can’t be the only one thinking that she’s not really qualified to kick ass quite like Sarah was.
Though Ollie is gone, we still get to see his Hong Kong Flashbacks where (when?) we’re still following the storyline of the abduction of Maseo’s (Karl Yung) wife Tatsu as well as the containment of the ‘omega’ for Argus and Amanda Waller (still excellently handled by Cynthia Addai-Robinson). During these scenes we get to see the further development of Ollie’s relationship with Maseo, and the lengths the archer will go to help save his friend’s wife. Which itself leads to the episode’s big reveal that surprised everyone in the audience under the age of 12; Ollie isn’t really dead.
So Arrow makes a strong return; Left Behind is an emotional, action filled episode that is setting up a lot of story threads for the season to come, and while I’ll keep tuning in, I’d really like to see some of The Flash’s light-heartedness return to the show. You know, once the whole ‘mourning the dead’ is done with.